Israel’s announcement on Friday that 3,000 housing units will be built in areas
beyond the Green Line is not its final response to the successful bid by
Palestinians to upgrade their status at the UN on Thursday to that of a
non-member observer state, a diplomatic source said Saturday night.
was a proportionate response to what has happened so far,” the source said. “We
might do more.”
The source added that “more serious steps are still on
hold.” He would not elaborate.
However, this step – which includes
authorizing zoning and planning for thousands of other units throughout Judea
and Samaria, including in the controversial project between Jerusalem and
Ma’aleh Adumim called E1 – already drew intense international
The US quickly condemned the move, with National Security
Council spokesman Tommy Vietor saying: “We reiterate our longstanding opposition
to settlements and east Jerusalem construction and announcements. We believe
these actions are counterproductive and make it harder to resume direct
negotiations or achieve a two-state solution.”
British Foreign Secretary
William Hague also slammed the step, and called for it to be reconsidered. He
warned that the move harms Israel’s standing in the international community, and
that the plans “would alter the situation on the ground on a scale that makes
the two-state solution, with Jerusalem as a shared capital, increasingly
difficult to achieve.”
His French counterpart, Laurent Fabius, also
issued a strong condemnation.
The move caught many by surprise, since the
government had sent out messages over the last week saying that it was going to
take a low profile in its initial response to the UN move, waiting to see what
the Palestinians did with their newfound status, and whether they would try to
haul Israel before the International Criminal Court (ICC).
days, diplomatic officials have said Israel would not immediately announce a
wave of settlement construction so as not to divert the world’s attention from
what the PA did at the UN, which Israel viewed as an infringement of peace
accords, to the settlement issue.
Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman
articulated similar sentiments in private meetings in recent days.
Friday afternoon, less than 24 hours after the UN vote and just before Shabbat,
a senior diplomatic source said Israel decided to authorize the construction of
an additional 3,000 units in neighborhoods in Jerusalem beyond the Green Line
and in Judea and Samaria.
In addition, he said, the planning of thousands
of other units in Jerusalem and the settlement blocs, including in E1, would be moved
The source would not say where the 3,000 units would be built,
beyond saying that they would be in accordance with Israel’s map of “strategic
Another government official stressed that no decision was
made on actual construction in E1, and that what was being discussed were only
“preliminary plans and zoning.” His comment strengthened speculation that the
Netanyahu government was using E1 as a threat to be implemented only if the PA
ratcheted up its diplomatic battle with Israel and decided to turn to the
Israel’s response to the UN vote was reminiscent of a similar step
taken last November after the Palestinians won acceptance as a state in UNESCO.
A day after the UNESCO vote, Israel decided to accelerate the construction of
2,000 units. The difference is that the government then specified exactly where
the new units would be: 1,650 in Jerusalem neighborhoods beyond the pre- 1967
lines, 277 in Efrat and 50 in Ma’aleh Adumim. This time no details were
The Jerusalem Post first reported 10 days ago that Israel was
considering taking action on E1 as a possible response to the UN move, reporting
that Washington was urging it not to.
Building in E1, which would create
contiguity between Jerusalem and Ma’aleh Adumim to the northeast beyond the
Green Line, is something various Israeli governments have long wanted to do, but
which the US has prevented, arguing that it would cut Jerusalem off from
Bethlehem to the south and Ramallah to the north. The US did not, however,
actively oppose Israel moving a police station there in 2008.
Palestinian Authority, meanwhile, hinted on Saturday that it was considering
complaining to the ICC against Israel for authorizing the new settlement
PLO Executive Committee member Hanan Ashrawi said the
Israeli decision was a “war crime” and an “act of aggression against the State
of Palestine.” She said that the decision was a flagrant violation of the Fourth
Geneva Convention, which defines humanitarian protections for civilians in a war
zone and outlaws the practice of total war.
Ashrawi said that Israel was
obviously sending a “premeditated” message to the international community
following Thursday’s UN General Assembly vote upgrading the status of the
Palestinians to non-member observer state.
“Israel’s message is that it
is continuing to challenge the will of the international community and
international law,” she added.
“This unilateral and systematic policy is
in the context of the Israeli government’s scheme to steal the lands of the
State of Palestine and the world must hold Israel accountable for its aggression
against the lands of the occupied State of Palestine.”
Khaled Abu Toameh
contributed to this report. •